We're highlighting concerns for horses kept tethered

20.02.19

We're concerned for horses with their legs tangled in chains, as well as horses with wounds caused by tight head collars.

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Today, we're issuing a stark reminder to the owners of tethered horseshighlighting the welfare risks associated with keeping animals tethered.

As the House of Commons hosts an adjournment debate on the issue today (20 February) we're reminding owners who regularly keep their horses in this way of the risk to their animal's welfare - with the hope of safeguarding hundreds of horses in the future.

Last year we received more than 5,000 complaints about tethered horses

Dr Mark Kennedy, our equine welfare expert, said:

As the biggest animal welfare charity, we're called almost every day by people up and down the country who are concerned about tethered horses, some of which have suffered horrible injuries after becoming tangled up in their tethers. In fact, last year (2018) we received more than 5,000 complaints about tethered horses.

It's a very difficult situation for us as a welfare charity because at the moment tethering is not illegal in itself. So often our officers are unable to take action unless a vet can confirm the horse is suffering.

Sometimes just being tethered, though it poses a lot of risk, isn't causing suffering at the time we visit. So often we're left powerless.

Sadly, we also see many cases where tethering has caused a horse to suffer severely, such as Raspy (pictured above), a tethered pony found in Sunderland last summer with his head collar embedded into his skin, causing a painful wound. We have also seen cases where the horse's legs have become tangled up in the chain or rope and they're unable to move at all. All of these are reasons why we believe tethering poses a significant risk to welfare and is, therefore, an inappropriate way to keep horses.

Tethering horses is not illegal in the UK, but along with other charities, we have great concerns

Dr Kennedy added:

For the welfare needs of a tethered horse to be met, they would have to be very carefully and regularly monitored, safely tethered with properly designed and fitted equipment. As well as given appropriate shelter, food and water, along with regular and lengthy periods of free-roaming without the tether. Sadly, this rarely happens.

Tethered horses are not only at risk of becoming injured themselves, but they also pose a serious risk to the public, especially when they're left close to busy roads and roundabouts where if they were to become loose, they could cause road accidents.

We would be interested in considering any approaches to address this problem. While the introduction of stricter measures such as a maximum time period on the tether may be a way forward, the impact of this and other potential legislation on the ongoing horse crisis of neglected, abandoned and fly-grazed equines is unknown.

For example, if tethering were to be banned outright, this could lead to problems elsewhere, such as increased fly-grazing and abandonment, so we believe that careful thought and consideration is needed to identify the best way forward.

Whether or not a change in the law occurs, the key issue is enforcement of existing animal welfare legislation. We believe that appropriate resources must be made available to the main enforcement bodies to ensure that they can properly enforce existing legislation.

In the meantime, we hope to continue educating and working with horse owners to discourage tethering and promote more suitable, welfare-friendly ways of keeping horses.

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